Sep 18 - Does A Loving God Really Judge?

Does A Loving God Really Judge?

September 18, 2016

Micah 1

DOES A LOVING GOD REALLY JUDGE?

Micah 1

September 18th, 2016

 

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the book of Micah is part of one scroll containing the so-called 12 minor prophets, listed more or less chronologically.  Micah is the sixth in line.[1]  In Hebrew, Micah’s name is pronounced:  Mikayahu, which means, “who is like YHWH”.[2]

 

In order to understand the situation that Micah is addressing we need to set the stage a bit by going back in time 200 years to when the kingdom of Israel was still united when king Solomon died. 

 

After Solomon’s son Rehoboam alienated the northern tribes, they chose for themselves Jeroboam (a former official of Solomon’s) as their king. Jeroboam holds on to the name Israel for his kingdom.

 

Solomon’s son Rehoboam only retained three of the original 12 tribes, and renames the kingdom after the largest of these, Judah.[3]

 

Notice that the northern kingdom of Israel is considerably bigger than the southern kingdom of Judah. 

 

Traditionally the northern kingdom of Israel is said to have contained “10” tribes - but strictly speaking that is not so. 

 

SLIDE:  List of the tribes between north and south kingdom

 

In reality, the northern kingdom only contained 9 tribes.[4]  The only way to make it 10 is to either count Simeon or Benjamin as a northern tribe, which is blatantly false, or to count the tribe of Levi, which is usually never included in the list of 12, and which was as common in the northern kingdom of Judah as it was in the south. 

 

So Micah’s ministry began 200 years after the split of the kingdom into two.

 

You can see that I’ve put a red rectangle around the time when Micah was active.  Micah lived in the southern kingdom, but he was more than aware of what was going on in the northern kingdom of Israel, and his prophecies addressed both the northern and southern kingdoms.     

 

We need to understand that the world in which Micah was active, was in turmoil, upheaval and change.  Things were going seriously wrong for a number of reasons.

 

For one, Israel and Judah were in serious decline: religiously, militarily, politically and socially.

Micah bemoans the worship of idols, evil and capricious business practices, the accumulation of land and wealth by means of violence, abuse of the poor and powerless, dishonesty, cheating, infighting as well as graft and corruption.  King Pekah in the North and King Ahaz in the South were seriously corrupt individuals. 

 

For another, the Assyrian empire was on the move.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.

 

So what was the message in the book of Micah?  It really was a going back and forth between warnings to both kingdoms of their coming destruction (chapters 1-3; 6:1-7:7), and words of the restoration that was to come, particular for Jerusalem (4:1-5:15; 7:8-20).[5] 

 

So let’s begin with Micah chapter 1:

 

1 The word of YHWH that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

 

Micah came from the Judean town of Moresheth (pronounced Moreschet), also called Moresheth-Gath (pronounced Moreschet-Gat), located south-west of Jerusalem toward the coastal region that was held by the Philistine city states.  The most prominent city in that area was Lachish. 

 

As already mentioned, Micah’s message was for both the southern kingdom Judah and the northern kingdom Israel, particularly to those living in the respective capitals of Jerusalem and Samaria. 

 

We are told that Micah was active during the reigns of the Judean kings Jothan (ok/good), his son Ahaz (very bad), and Ahaz’ son Hezekiah (good), as indicated by the frowny or happy faces on the slide. [Combined they reigned from c. 756 - 697 BC]. 

 

All of the kings of northern Israel in Micah’s day were described as being bad (all frowny faces).[6]   

 

Micah spoke to them “the word of YHWH”, a technical term for a word received by revelation from God.  Personally, I don’t like it when someone claims that they are God’s mouthpiece, when someone claims to be a prophet or to have direct revelation from God, or when a preacher makes himself out to be infallibly true.  When someone says that God told them to tell me something, I generally don’t take too kindly to that kind of chutzpah (audacity). But that is different when it comes to the prophets that are retained in the OT (even though Micah rails against some other prophets as being blatantly false).   

 

So Micah was active around about 745 - 697 BC.  OT prophets who were his contemporaries included Isaiah, Hosea and Amos.  Let’s go on to v.2.

 

2 Hear, all you nations.  Pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it.  Lord YHWH is a witness against you. 

The Lord (steps forth) from his holy abode. 3 Behold, YHWH is leaving his (glorious) place, he will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.

 

The nations are summoned to trial as defendants.  God, the judge, is on the march.  This is not speaking of God leaving the temple in Jerusalem, but leaving his heavenly abode (or the spiritual dimension) where his glory resides.  He does this in order to enter and intervene in human history, in this instance to punish his people for doing evil.[7]

 

4 The mountains will melt under him, like wax before the fire.  The valleys will be split open, as when waters pours down a steep incline.

 

The picture is apocalyptic in nature.  Like a volcanic blast or a great mudslide will change the surface of the earth permanently, so God’s presence and justice will leave an indelible impression on the land. 

 

 5 All this is happening because of the transgressions of Jacob (= northern kingdom of Israel) and for the sins of the house of Israel.

What is the transgression of Jacob?  Is it not Samaria? 

And what is the high place of Judah?  Is it not Jerusalem?

 

Those who are in power in the respective capitals are the ones that are really to blame - corruption and evil is spread from the political as well as the spiritual leaders of each respective kingdom.

 

That does not mean that God doesn’t hold individuals accountable for their own choices, but here Micah is pointing out that the rot starts at the top.

 

6 Therefore I will make Samaria into a field filled with rocks, a place for planting vines.  I will pour down her stones (of her walls) into the valley and uncover her foundations.

 

The judgement is pronounced.  The capital of the northern kingdom, Samaria, will be leveled.[8]  The walls that protect her will be toppled to its foundations.

 

Where once the city stood, 100 meters above the surrounding valley, only fields filled with rocks and rubble will remain. All of the houses, temples, palaces, walls, all will be gone - and along with them all that they contained.

 

So why would God judge the city and punish it in this way?  What had happened in Samaria that this kind of devastation was to take place?  Micah tells us.

 

7 All her carved images will be beaten to pieces.  All her wave offerings will be burned with fire. All her idols I will lay waste.  They were bought with a prostitute’s wage and they will become a prostitute’s wage again.

 

Here the most important of the charges against Samaria is noted.  Her leaders and inhabitants had abandoned the worship of YHWH and had turned to worshipping the idols and gods of the surrounding nations instead.[9] 

 

This was a breaking of the covenant (the agreement, contract) with YHWH.  This situation Micah illustrates with a woman who leaves her husband and how earns her living through prostitution. Yet that very act of prostitution removed God’s protection from her. 

 

So what was the worship of idols so tempting?  Well, the biggest difference was that the gods and goddesses of the surrounding nations were not seen to demand the kind of moral and ethical behaviour that YHWH did.[10]  In fact, temple prostitution was just one long held tradition in the ancient near east, which is why Micah may have made the point that the purchase of idols and the paying of the temple prostitutes go hand in hand.[11]  

 

[Clay shards from the time of Micah have been unearthed from the place where Samaria once stood.  They contained receipts and the names of those involved in the transactions.  Many of the names included the name of the Canaanite god, Baal, indicating just how widespread idol worship was.]

 

It is so much easier to serve a god or goddess that doesn’t demand anything of you but a bit of money at the temple. This may also be while postmodernity with it’s lack of moral decorum, has become so popular today, and why anyone who suggests that not all lifestyle choices are ethically or morally equal, will immediately be brand-marked an intolerant bigot.[12] 

 

How was this to come about?  I’ve already indicated that the Neo-Assyrian Empire was expanding - a fact that Micah was acutely aware of. 

 

The Assyrian empire had already been the most powerful state in the ancient Near East for about 180 years. However, only a few decades earlier the empire had languished under ineffective leadership for a time period of nearly 40 years.[13]  

 

It was during that time, just a few decades before Micah, that the prophet Jonah had gone to the capital city, Nineveh, in order to announce its destruction.  Yet at that time, the city was spared from God’s destruction because it “repented.”[14]  

 

But since that time, a general in the Assyrian army, had seized the crown and become the new king, renaming himself Tiglath-Pileser III (744-727 BC).  Under his leadership the Assyrian forces became a professional standing army and the empire began to expand rapidly again.

 

Because the northern kingdom of Israel, in an alliance with Syria (Aram), was going to attack the southern kingdom of Judah, Ahaz, the evil king over Judah, sent an envoy to Tiglath-Pilesar along with a huge sum of money, asking him to come to his aid - in essence swearing fealty to TP and sacrificing his independence in the process.[15]  

 

This Tighlath-Pileser actually did this in 738 BC.  He and his army conquered first Syria, with its capital at Damascus.  They then overran Israel without much fuss (even though Samaria was left alone). 

 

TP deported many of Israel’s upper classes (large property holders, rulers, religious leaders).[16]  He also imposed a heavy tribute on those who continued to live in Israel.  So Israel continued as a vassal kingdom, but with a much reduced territory.

 

Ahaz, the king of Judah, of course also ended up paying tribute and payments to TP (as recorded in TP’s annals).  He embraced TP to the point that he went to Nineveh in order to visit with TP.  He may have even worshipped at the temple there because he had the altar there replicated and placed in the temple in Jerusalem, which he turned into a place for idol worship.[17]   

 

When TP died, the northern kingdom Israel, under king Hosea, suspended paying tribute in the hopes that an alliance with Egypt would save them (725 BC). 

 

This led the new emperor, a son of TP named Shalmaneser V (727-722), to invade Israel again and besiege its capital Samaria for 3 years.  Shalmaneser died during the siege, possibly assassinated by his brother and successor, Sargon II (722-705).

 

We know how Sargon II looked like because a relief showing him survived from that time (mind you all of the Assyrian and Babylonian leaders ended up wearing big hats and a big beard).

 

By the way, that’s Sargon, NOT Sauron (or Saruman) for you Lord of the Ring fans.

 

One artist’s rendering.  Sargon shooting his long bow while shielded by some of his soldiers.  See the large siege tower in the background. 

 

The tried and true method is described by historians as first building an earthen ramp close to the city wall, covering it with flat stones.  A combination siege-tower and covered battering ram was then wheeled up against the mid-section of the city wall.  

 

Archers in the tower cleared the battlements while the bowmen on the ground pushed up close to the wall to cover an infantry assault with scaling ladders.

 

Once in power, unlike the ineffectual siege of Shalmaneser, Sargon quickly conquered the city of Samaria, ending the northern kingdom and carrying 27,300 people into Assyria while repopulating Israel with people from all areas of his kingdom (2 Kings 17:24).[18]

 

While this sometimes is called the loss of the ten tribes (medieval Rabbinic fable based on the OT statement that there are 10 tribes in the north), as we have already discussed, this really only affected 9 of the 12 tribes.  In fact, we can read of many of the Jews from those 9 tribes who fled south into Judah during this time while many others were not deported and remained in the land.[19] 

 

In Jesus’ day, the Samaritans saw themselves as direct descendants of the tribes of Israel that remained after the Assyrian deportation. They followed the Torah, but did not have the other books in the OT.  The rest of the Jews despised them as half-breeds. 

 

Being exiled from the land was considered the worst consequence of God’s judgment.  He takes from Israel and its capital Samaria the blessing of the land of promise and his own presence.  It is like Satan or a fallen angel being tossed out of heaven.  Like Adam and Eve being tossed out of Eden.

 

In essence, the kingdom of Israel ceased to exist.  The fate of Israel and its capital Samaria should have served as an example to Judah and its capital Jerusalem.

But if anything king Ahaz just got worse.  And so Micah switched his message from the northern kingdom to the south.[20]  

 

8 I lament and wail.  I go barefoot and naked.  I howl lamentations like the jackals, and wails of mourning like the ostriches.  9 For the wound of my people is incurable.

It has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem

 

Micah predicts that the Assyrians would eventually turn against their former allies, invade the country and come as far as the gates of Jerusalem.

 

Notice that Micah doesn’t come down hard on his people and preach judgment with a legalistic, self-righteous or uncaring attitude. 

 

As he announces these things, his heart is breaking.  He warns the leaders and the people of Judah because he cares for them to the point of weeping at the coming judgment and grieving it. 

 

10 Tell it not in Gath.  Weep not in Acco (or: do not weep at all).  In Beth-Leaphrah roll yourselves in the dust.  11 Move away, inhabitants of Shaphir.  The inhabitants of Zaanan are exposed in nakedness and shame.  They cannot leave their city.  Beth-ezel laments - its standing place (support) will be removed.  12 Yes, the inhabitants of Maroth wait anxiously for good news, because disaster has come from YHWH to the gates of Jerusalem.  13 Harness the horses to the chariots, inhabitants of Lachish.  This was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion, for in you were first found the transgressions of Israel.

 

Micah makes a list of all the cities and towns, those considered able to make a defense, in and around his hometown that he predicted would be destroyed by Sennacherib’s army on its way to Jerusalem. 

 

The towns that Micah mentions and that are known to us, are located within a 14 kilometer radius around his hometown of Moresheth-gath. 

 

Others may have nicknames, because of the use of a literary device called Paronomasia where the fate of the city matches its name (a purposeful play on words).  For example:

 

House of dust (Beth-Leaphrah) will roll in dust

Town of Beauty (Shaphir) will have to move on

Town that goes forth (Zaanan) will cower behind its walls

House taken away (Beth-Ezel) won’t be able to stand

The Bitter town (Maroth) will hope in vain for something better

 

But this did not take place in Ahaz’ days. 16 years later, when Sargon II died (705), Ahaz’s son, king Hezekiah of Judah, against the dire warnings of the prophet Isaiah, and with the promise of Egyptian military support, took the opportunity to suspend paying tribute to the Assyrians and courting the Babylonians instead. 

 

Maybe King Hezekiah thought that Sargon’s successor would be too busy clashing with the newly established kingdom of Babylon (king Meradoch-Baladan - ruled to 702) or be loathed to go up against the powerful new king in Egypt (Shabako - c. 710-695) to be bothered to come to Jerusalem. 

 

But Hezekiah had miscalculated on a number of points.  First of all, Sargon’s son Sennacherib (705-681), actually was not as worried about the Babylonian nor the Egypt rulers and their armies, as Hezekiah thought.  So he came with his army and put Hezekiah and the other rulers who had defied him in their place. 

 

So just as Micah had foreseen, Sennacherib’s invasion moved south along the coast, defeating the coastal cities.  Sennacherib then turned from the coastal plains eastward toward Lachish and Jerusalem. 

 

He conquered all of the towns and fortified cities along the way to Jerusalem, no one more difficult to take than Lachish.

 

Micah makes the point in his prophecy that Lachish is the beginning of Judah’s sin, probably because idolatry and immorality, possibly idol worship on a grand scale and temple prostitution, took foothold there first and infected all of Judah as a result. 

 

This is reminiscent of how so much of the questionable standards of Holly wood soon became the norm in North America. 

 

But conquering Lachish is no small task. 

 

Lachish had a substantial wall that protected it from invaders.

 

But even Lachish eventually succumbed to the Assyrian army.

 

Lachish was one of Judah’s key defensive positions. While Lachish was under attack, king Hezekiah of Judah sent a huge amount of money (eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold) to Sennacherib at Lachish.[21]  However, that did not dissuade Sennacherib from wanting to punish Hezekiah for rebelling against Assyria. 

 

[But before Sennacherib could concentrate on conquering Jerusalem, he had to return to the coastal plain to a town called Eltekeh to fight the army of Egypt which had come to meet him.[22]  The Assyrians defeated the Egyptian forces, went on to put down rebellions at Ekron (who had called the Egyptians for help), Tyre and Sidon, and then turned his attention back to Jerusalem.]

 

Sennacherib’s invasion was also recorded in his annals on prisms covered in cuneiform script that survived to today:

 

As for Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke.  I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts, and to the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth ramps, battering rams brought near to the walls in siege engines, and conquered them. I drove from them as booty 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, and horses, mules, donkeys, camels, cattle and sheep beyond counting.

 

As for Hezekiah, I shut him up like a caged bird in his royal city of Jerusalem. I then constructed a series of earthen mounds around him, and I turned back anyone to come out of the city gates. His towns which I captured I took from him and gave them to the (newly installed Philistine) kings of Ashod, Ekron, and Gaza.

 

But Micah foresees a fate even worse for Judah and Jerusalem.

 

14 Therefore you will give parting gifts (= say goodbye) to Moresheth-gath.  The houses of Achzib will be a great disappointment to the kings of Israel. 

15 I will again bring a conqueror over you, inhabitants of Mareshah.  The glory of Israel will be brought to Adullam.  16 Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair because of (the loss of) the children of your delight.  Make yourselves as bald as the vulture, for they will go from you into exile. 

 

 

This last prophecy actually didn’t come about - at least not in Micah’s time - even though Sennacherib and his army did in fact lay siege to Jerusalem in 701 BC, 

 

The same covered battering rams and siege towers could not put a breech into the walls of Jerusalem. 

The OT records that a plague of some sort hit the Assyrian camp, killing 185,000 of its soldiers.  Sennacherib had to return to Assyria. 

 

It is pretty certain that king Hezekiah of Judah ended up paying tribute to Assyria [the Assyrian records claim thus, the Jewish records simply don’t mention it]. Sennacherib was assassinated 20 years later (681 BC), likely by his own son (Arda-Mulissi; Adrammelech in the Bible - 2 Kings 19:37) while worshipping in the temple of Nisroch (“the great eagle” sometimes identified with Asschur, the national deity).[23]

 

While Jerusalem, and in essence the kingdom of Judah, were spared at the time of Micah, his dire predictions did in fact come true 115 years later, when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the city walls and the temple, and deported a large number of Jews (586 BC).[24] 

 

But why was Judah spared at this time?  Well, the answer can be found in the sweeping reforms that king Hezekiah introduced, perhaps in part reacting to Micah’s preaching against the spiritual, moral, and judicial corruption that were part of Ahaz’ reign.[25] 

 

[After the death of Ahaz, it took 16 days to repair the doors of the temple, remove all of the “defilements” from the temple (tossing it all into the Kidron valley), returning the missing implements, and consecrate the temple back to YHWH (2 Chron 29:3-20).  ]

 

This was so very different from the lack of reforms in the northern kingdom of Israel. All of its kings were actively worshipping the popular idols of the surrounding nations and not YHWH.  There never was a turning back to God, and therefore God did not spare them.  

 

So what can we learn from our passage today?  I think that Micah’s words speak clearly against the idea that God really doesn’t care all that much about our conduct, about abandoning him in favour of the idols of moral ambivalence, pleasure, selfishness and a lack of concern for others. 

 

In fact, Jesus’ own message to the Jews of his day, could be said to be very much along the lines of Micah’s:

 

Repent (turn around, turn away from what’s wrong and turn toward doing God’s will), because the kingdom or reign of God - that is, the day of reckoning - is near.” 

 

And as much as Micah warned the kingdoms of Israel and Judah of God’s coming judgment, so Jesus warns those who listened to him, of the nearness of the judgment and the very real chance that they would enter an eternity without God.

 

In fact, of all the voices we hear in the NT, his is most pronounced about this fact.  20 different times Jesus likened an eternity without God to fire.  But he also spoke of it as outer darkness (Matt 8:12).

 

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus pointed out that hell has no exit door.  God, despite his great love for his people, is still the eternal judge before whom all have to give an account. 

 

So Jesus said something similar to the OT prophets when he declared:

 

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven.  Only those will enter who actually do the will of my heavenly Father.             Matthew 7:21

 

This may not be a very palatable message that Jesus gave.  And how do you think Micah’s message was received? 

 

They tell me, “Don’t prophecy!” and say, “One should not prophecy of such things.  Disgrace will not overtake us.”

                                                                        Micah 2:6

 

Micah’s message was as unpalatable to the people in Israel and Judah as Jesus’ words about an eternity without God are today.

 

Suppose that Micah didn’t give his message, if, like Jonah, he wanted to shirk his responsibility?  Would that make him more loving and compassionate?  Does concealing unpleasant truths demonstrate true care and love for others?  Or is it more loving and kind and caring to speak of a dreadful alternative in order to call people to reform. 

 

In the case of Ahaz, Micah’s message failed.  But in the case of Hezekiah, it worked.  The man did everything in his power to follow and obey YHWH. 

 

But you know what, as we will see next week, Micah’s message didn’t end with a bunch of predictions of gloom and doom.  It actually went on to describe a pretty bright future.  And that is because God’s goal is to bless - if at all possible.

 

Who is a God like you [Micah = who is like YHWH?], pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression. ...He does not retain his anger forever because he delights in unchanging kindness (chesed).  He will again have compassion on us.  He will tread our iniquities under foot.  Yes, you will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.                                                  Micah 7:18-19

 

 

For God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.                   2 Peter 3:9

 

This faithful love and kindness is not something that we can take for granted.  It does not mean that we can tell ourselves: “I can do whatever I want, God’s going to forgive me anyway.”  The nation of Israel would not avoid the consequences of the action of its leaders and people. They needed to repent, to reform, and that took its time.

 

 

AM I TAKING GOD’S PATIENCE, LOVE AND FORGIVENESS FOR GRANTED?

IS THERE SOMETHING GOD IS ASKING ME TO CHANGE IN MY LIFE ... AND AM I WILLING TO LISTEN?

 

 

[1] Following the MT.  In the LXX, Micah comes third.

[2]

[3] In 1 Kings 11:29-36, the prophet Ahija tells Jereboam he will get 10 of the 12 tribes and Solomon’s son will only retain 1 of the 12.  Possibly the missing one is Levi or Simeon.  However, does that mean that Benjamin is counted as one of the northern tribes even though it ended up belonging to the south?

[4] Reuben, Isaachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, Manasseh make nine. 

[5] According to Einheitsuebersetzung, chapters 1 - 3 (except 2:16-17); 4:14 - 5:5 (messianic ruler); and 7:8-20 can be attributed to the prophet.  See Jer 26:17-19 - Micah is recorded as proclaimed the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple during the time of Hezekiah.

[6] Mehahem and Pekanhiah had set up their own capitals in rebellion to Pekah, but Pekah outlasted them both.

[7] Heb hekal can mean temple or palace.

[8] Samaria had been founded by king Omri (885-887 BC).

[9] 2 Kings 17:7-12,15b-17 describes this in detail.  17:15 makes it clear that this was breaking the covenant with God.

[10] This is not completely true.  The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (c. 1754 BC) consists of 282 laws and is introduced thusly: ... (the gods) Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind. The laws focus on court issues including court proceedings, theft, murder, sale of property, treatment of prisoners, sexual crimes (incl. incest), divorce, abandonment, liability, etc.  However, just how the worshipers of various deities and idols thought about following this kind of conduct is questionable.

[11] In the south, king Ahaz, brought great immorality into Jerusalem, in combination with the worship of idols (2 Chron 28:19).

[12] Bigotry = intolerance toward those holding different opinions, beliefs, or lifestyles.

[13] The Neo-Assyrian empire existed for 300 years (911 - 612 BC).  It included a period of stagnation and internal strife from 783-745 BC when Babylon and Aram (Syria) were able to make gains against it.

[14] Jonah was active during the reign of King Jeroboam II, whose reign (c. 786-746 BC; 782-753) coincided almost exactly with the period of the Assyrian stagnation.  If we postulate that Jonah went to Nineveh around 760 BC, then the Assyrians would have destroyed Israel and its capital Samaria only 41 years later. If Micah began his ministry around 737, then only 23 years would have passed between Jonah’s ministry and Micah’s.

[15] The combined forces of Aram and Israel even besieged Jerusalem (2 Kings 16:5).  2 Kings 16:7-10 records TP’s invasion.

[16] 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chron 5:26

[17] 2 Chron 28:22-23 - Ahaz had worshipped the Syrian gods prior to this because he thought they helped Syria in their military campaigns. 

[18] Sargon II named himself after the great Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BC).  Sargon means “true king.”  It was Sargon II who brought the Assyrian Empire to its greatest height politically and militarily.  He was killed in battle in Anatolia/Asia Minor in 705.

[19] No record exists of the Assyrians having exiled people from Dan, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun or western Manasseh. Descriptions of the deportation of people from Reuben, Gad, Manasseh in Gilead, Ephraim and Naphtali indicate that only a portion of these tribes were deported and the places to which they were deported are known locations given in the accounts. The deported communities are mentioned as still existing at the time of the composition of the books of Kings and Chronicles and did not disappear by assimilation. 2 Chronicles 30:1-11 explicitly mentions northern Israelites who had been spared by the Assyrians in particular people of Ephraim, Manasseh, Asher, Issachar and Zebulun and how members of the latter three returned to celebrate the Passover at the Temple in Jerusalem during the reforms under king Hezekiah. 

[20] Jeremiah, who was active about 30 years after Micah, writes about the time when Micah spoke of Jerusalem’s fall and the destruction of the temple during the reign of King Hezekiah Jeremiah 26:17-19: Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah:  thus says YHWH of hosts, “Zion will be plowed as a field.  Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.”  Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah did not put him to death, did they?  Did he not fear YHWH and entreat the favour of YHWH, and did not YHWH relent of the disaster that he had pronounced against them?

[21] Hezekiah was forced to empty the temple and royal treasury and strip gold from the doorposts of the temple in order to do so.

[22] A town between Ashdod and Joppa in the coastal plain. 

[23] Also reminds me of the Tolkien Balrog, which is reminiscent of Baal-roch.  Some religious authors consider Nisroch to be a fallen angel (demon), which is also what Balrog supposedly means (cruel demon).

[24] There were three deportations (597; 586; 582 BC).

[25] See 2 Kings 13:3-6; 2 Chron 29-31; Jer 26:18.